Published: 10 November 2016
Jack Brunton has been working as a structural engineer for seven years, having graduated from The University of Sheffield. Here he discusses his work on the Nuffield Department of Primary Health Sciences project, a refurbished Grade II Listed building which has been shortlisted in The Structural Awards 2016 “Education or Healthcare Structures” category.
My family made significant contributions to railway engineering during the 19th century, but it was abilities in STEM subjects and art that drew me to engineering.
I work in a team that has a strong specialism for refurbishing heritage buildings, and I’ve worked on various buildings with listed status and within conservation areas - such as Woolwich Barracks and Ancaster House.
When working on heritage or refurbishment projects, designs need to be robust so as to accommodate the unexpected. Extensive intrusive investigative works are usually required at an early stage to ensure all major unexpected details are identified at as earliest as possible. The way you repair details should be honest, and where possible you need to use approaches and materials which are sympathetic to the original building.
There were a number of challenges we faced with the Nuffield project. One key challenge was the introduction of a new mezzanine floor, suspended off the existing structure. The work was sequenced so that the existing roof could be retained throughout, eliminating the need for a temporary alternative and shortening the construction programme. This was achieved by close collaboration between contractor, sub-contractors and the wider design team.
Additionally, the original building was designed “inside out”, meaning that the building was designed as a number of individual spaces, each with a specific use, which were stacked together and wrapped in a uniform façade – this in itself is not unusual, but there was no overall pattern running through the building, which made its refurbishment highly complex.
Still, there was much to admire about the original design, including its façade, the interesting steel trusses in the roof, and the extensive use of reinforced concrete, which is unusual for a building of this era. We admired the robustness and quality of the original construction, and its ability to accept our alterations.
One such alteration was the introduction of exposed precast concrete soffits, which complemented the existing façade well and allowed the thermal mass of the structure to help passively moderate the internal temperature. The slab soffits of the existing structure were also left exposed for the same reason.
Having worked on the project from an early stage and having a full appreciation for the efforts of many that allowed the successful delivery of it, it was hugely satisfying to see the work completed, and it’s a great honour to see it shortlisted for a Structural Award.
Discover more about The Structural Awards.